In a previous set of commentaries, I talked about the interview Nick Pitts and I did with Jonathan Haidt on his book, The Coddling of the American Mind. Then I saw an essay that quoted his earlier book, The Righteous Mind, where he talked about “the conservative advantage.” As a liberal, he wrote the book because he “was convinced that American liberals did not get the morals and motives of their conservative countrymen.”
In one study he did with Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek, they tested how well liberals and conservatives could understand each other. They had the people fill out their Moral Foundations Questionnaire. One-third of the time, they were supposed to fill out the questions normally, answering as themselves. One-third of the time, they were asked to fill out the questions as they think a “typical liberal” would respond. And one-third of the time, they were supposed to fill out the questionnaire the way they believed a “typical conservative” would respond.
The design of the research allowed the researchers to examine the stereotypes that each side had about the other. And this also allowed them to see how accurate their answers were compared to people who were liberal and people who were conservative.
“The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as ‘very liberal.’”
I might add that the study was published ten years ago. I think it is even more likely that the gap in perception by liberals of conservatives has grown even more. Much of what Jonathan Haidt has written about in his recent book illustrates how millennial college students want even more “protection” from ideas they don’t like. They are less likely than before to engage in foreign ideas. This is one more example of why we have such polarization in the political arena.